CHICAGO - In response to community concerns and Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s recent call for voluntary shutdowns of Illinois’ eleven remaining hospital incinerators, Evanston hospital has taken action to begin quickly dismantling its medical waste incinerator and retrofitting it as a heating source. To facilitate this, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expedited its review and approval of Evanston Hospital’s permit application which was received on Sept. 17, just days after the Governor’s request.
“Evanston Hospital is the first to step up and do the right thing and is setting a great example for the other hospitals that will follow,” said Governor Blagojevich. “I’m pleased to see that Illinois EPA and the hospital have worked quickly on the changes necessary to keep the incinerator’s heating capacity.”
“Illinois EPA staff is ready and willing to work cooperatively with other hospitals to provide guidance, address alternatives and expedite any necessary permits just as we have done with Evanston Hospital,” said Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano.
The Illinois EPA last night issued a joint construction and operating permit which allows Evanston Hospital to add natural gas-fired burners on its existing incinerator’s heat recovery unit. This retrofit will provide the steam needed for heating, cooking and other daily hospital activities. The permit paves the way for Evanston Hospital to shut down its incinerator but still use the former waste boiler as stand-alone heating equipment.
On September 13, Governor Blagojevich called on 11 hospitals across the state to voluntarily shut down their incinerators. For those that don’t comply, the Governor will seek legislation during the Fall veto session banning all hospital incinerators. He also instructed Illinois EPA to work with the hospitals on implementing cleaner disposal methods.
The action came in response to growing concerns raised by communities near hospital incinerators and emerging scientific data about the health effects of exposure to toxic emissions from them. The Governor offered Illinois EPA’s assistance to the hospitals as they transition to the cleaner, safer and cost-effective alternatives now available.